Israeli 24-hour news channel launches, with eyes on the world

July 18, 2013

TEL AVIV – Israel’s growing rift with the European Union, peace talks with the Palestinians and the turmoil in Egypt were just a few of the stories to make headlines Wednesday on i24, the world’s newest 24-hour TV news channel -- and Israel’s first.

Israel is one of the most news-centric countries in the world, with a robust domestic media landscape and a small army of foreign correspondents. But until Wednesday it did not have a 24-hour television news channel broadcasting from its shores.

The new channel aims at news junkies worldwide who are interested in the Middle East. It will broadcast simultaneously in English, French and Arabic, according to i24 founder and CEO Frank Melloul.

There are no plans to broadcast in Hebrew, reflecting the channel’s focus on an international audience, rather than the domestic one. Melloul said the goal is to show a different side of Israel, especially to people who may have a negative view of the country.

“We are not right-wing, left-wing or Jewish. But we want to show that Israel has a place in this region,” he said.

Melloul is a former French diplomat who advised former president Jacques Chirac and was involved in founding the France 24 news channel. He said the trilingual platform and the fact his channel was born well into the digital age will give it an edge over competitors, including Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, U.S.-run Al-Hurra, Britain's BBC and Sky News, and France 24.

The new channel is being funded by private investors, with the bulk of the money coming from French-Israeli media mogul Patrick Drahgi, Melloul said.

While Melloul declined to say how much is being invested in the channel, it occupies a new, high-tech studio overlooking the sea in the historic port city of Jaffa. More than 150 journalists have been recruited to produce the news. A dozen staffers were brought in from the United States and Europe.

Melloul said the three language teams will work simultaneously to produce content, and the main news broadcasts in each language will be identical. Stories created in one language will be translated into the remaining two.

The new channel will be streamed live 24 hours a day online. It will also be broadcast via satellite across the Middle East, and in Europe, Asia and Africa. The channel is aiming to launch on U.S. satellite and cable frequencies in January.

Ruth Eglash is a reporter for The Washington Post based in Jerusalem. She was formerly a reporter and senior editor at the Jerusalem Post and freelanced for international media.
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Max Fisher · July 18, 2013